New Jersey Asks Feds to Require Pennsylvania Plant to Cut Emissions

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on May 12 petitioned the federal government to mandate a reduction in air pollution from RRI Energy’s power plant in Pennsylvania, located just across the Delaware River from Knowlton Township in Warren County.

Commissioner Bob Martin announced he signed a petition under Section 126 of the federal Clean Air Act to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force the polluting plant to cut down on its emissions.

Prevailing winds carry the polluting discharges directly into New Jersey. The emissions are known to cause adverse health effects, including asthma and respiratory failure, and environmental impacts such as acid rain. Previous efforts by New Jersey to reduce the pollution from this plant have been unsuccessful.

"We are calling on the EPA to take prompt action in this matter," said Gov. Chris Christie. "The magnitude of the plant’s emissions and its close proximity make it a real threat to public health and welfare in New Jersey.’’

“This has gone on far too long, endangering the public health of New Jersey residents,’’ added Commissioner Martin. “The more than 30,000 tons of sulfur dioxide being emitted from this single coal-fired power plant is far too high. It must be reduced.’’

In contrast to the Portland plant, seven coal-fired power plants in New Jersey emit less than a total of 14,000 tons of sulfur dioxide annually, and requirements for more scrubbers will drop this level in half by 2014.

The DEP believes a scrubber should be installed to reduce the RRI Energy plant's emissions by at least 95 percent to less than 1,500 tons per year. Also, the emissions of fine particles must be reduced, Martin said. Improved sulfur dioxide and particle control also would reduce other hazardous air pollutant emissions, including hydrochloric acid, lead and mercury.

The Portland plant is situated on a 1,094-acre tract along the west bank of the Delaware River in Northampton County, Pa., some 10 miles southeast of Stroudsburg, Pa., and just 500 feet across the Delaware from New Jersey.

Built about 50 years ago, the Portland plant’s two coal-fired generating units have no air pollution controls for some contaminants, including sulfur dioxide and mercury, and have outdated controls for nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

As a result, air contaminant emissions generated by the plant are very high. In fact, the Portland plant is the fifth highest emitter of sulfur dioxide per megawatt of power generated in the entire country due to its use of a high sulfur content coal and lack of a scrubber device, according to NJDEP.

An air quality computer modeling analysis of the sulfur dioxide emissions indicates they exceed levels allowed by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for protection of public health and welfare.

“New Jersey has some of the worst air quality in the nation already, and plants like this make the problem worse,’’ Martin added. “Much of New Jersey’s poor air quality is attributable to upwind, out-of-state pollution sources like the Portland plant.’’

New Jersey has previously filed a Clean Air Act lawsuit against RRI Energy, alleging the Portland facility has emitted unlawful levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and fine particles. That suit is pending in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania.

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